Posts Tagged ‘Small Business’

For high-tech SME’s it is important to allocate resources to finding the means to compete and succeed. Many high-tech SME companies lack marketing experts and operate with insufficient knowledge to commercialize their technology.

The aim of the webinar is to provide more understanding of branding in high-tech SME’s. In the discussion the special needs of high-tech companies are highlighted which helps them to develop their marketing and branding practices. Moreover, some recommendations of the role of public organisations are provided.

  • Title: Branding – what can it offer for high-tech companies?
  • Speaker: Heidi Neuvonen, JAMK
  • Moderator: Murat Akpinar, JAMK
  • Date: September 24, 2012

Time: 14.00 – 14.45 (30 minutes dialogue between speaker and moderator + 15 minutes for answering questions from the audience. Audience should write their questions during the first 30 minutes into the “Chat” area)

You can participate by signing-in as guest (no password required) at



By Vanessa Merit Nornberg

Here’s how to make networking work for you–and your business.

Texting AddictsNetworking is at the top of the list of things that make me the most uncomfortable.

Most people who know me are surprised to learn this, because I am a consummate extrovert, but, in truth, I find it daunting to talk to people I have never met, and I hate pretending to be interested in people who are clearly networking to social climb. In the past two years, however, networking has become a very important part of how I grow my business.

Consider these three ideas to take the discomfort out of networking and use it to create real value for your business:

Listening is the best way to start a conversation.

Most people think about networking from the perspective of what they are going to say. Instead, think about networking in terms of what someone else might have to say to you. Last week, I was at an event with other business owners, and a woman mentioned a new sales manager who had just joined her team. Rather than bringing up my own recent hiring challenges (which happened to be at the top of my worry list), I asked her how long it had taken her to find the new recruit, and when she confirmed that the process had been long, I asked what resources she had found most helpful in her search. She gave me several ideas I had never even thought of, let alone tried.

Honesty begets honesty.

Networking tends to bring out the braggarts, the people for whom everything is going just great: stellar sales, smooth cash flow, and growth potential to last a lifetime. We can all spin our stories to sell the audience on how great our businesses are, and doing so is sometimes a great survival skill. However, I find that ditching the PR pitch and honestly talking about my challenges has saved my business more than once. About a year ago, at a networking event, I had a powerful conversation with a business owner I had just met about some financing issues I was having, and it’s a damn good thing I did. He gave me excellent tips on how to assess the potential peril my business was in, and several specific ways to reverse the problem. Had I kept quiet about my woes, I would have missed a valuable learning opportunity.

Everyone has something interesting to impart.

Networking makes people nervous, because they worry they may be thrown together with people with whom they have nothing in common. In my experience, the people who are the most different from me are also the most likely to teach me something valuable. Stepping outside of your circle is one of the most effective ways to begin thinking outside your box–and networking is the perfect chance to get access to a bevvy of different types of thinkers, all in one location. At an entrepreneurs breakfast earlier this year, I sat at a table with no one I knew. I gave myself the assignment to learn about each person’s business, and in the process, I discovered–from a leadership researcher!–a print-on-demand method I could use to make T-shirts to promote my brand. I also found out from the owner of a consulting business about a website-creation tool that would let me sketch out how I want my site to be reorganized. And, just by chance, I wound up talking to an IT guy who tipped me off to an alternative resource for searching for new suppliers, and they proved to be more effective than the one I had been using. None of these people are in my industry, nor did their products overlap with mine, yet they each told me about something I could use.

So think again before you consider skipping a networking opportunity or contemplate hiding out by the buffet table. Networking can make the entrepreneurial journey less lonely, provide you with great nuggets of advice, and force you to do something outside your comfort zone–all of which are fundamental to growing your business.

Vanessa Merit Nornberg: In 2004, Vanessa opened Metal Mafia, a wholesale body and costume jewelry company that sells to more than 5,000 specialty shops and retail chains in 23 countries. Metal Mafia was an Inc. 500 company in 2009. @vanessanornberg

This is mostly for our US friends but it might be worth checking out options in your own country.

Think you’ve exhausted all your money-raising options? Think again. Here are seven alternative ways to fund your home based business.


While the old saying “It takes money to make money” has some bearing on starting a home based business, how much money it’s going to take depends on the kind of business you’re starting. But before thinking about how to fund your home business, you have to determine how much you need–and that may not be as much as you thought.

For example, the startup costs for some home businesses–like cleaning services, daily money management and pet sitting–are quite low, costing in the hundreds of dollars to launch. Other businesses–like medical transcription, private investigating and mobile pet grooming–will cost $10,000 or more. And neither of these estimates includes living expenses, which you’ll need to take into account when calculating your startup costs if you don’t already have a job to cover those costs.

The most common sources of startup funds are tapping into your own piggy bank, retirement funds, insurance policies, employee severance package, a loan from a family member or friend, credit cards or a home equity loan. If you’ve already considered or drawn from those sources but still need additional funds, here are some other types of wells you might be able to draw from:

First, think about assets or resources you own or are entitled to, such as:

  • Taxes. While still employed at a job, you can reduce withholding taxes by changing your number of allowances. Each additional allowance on a $1,000 paycheck is worth about $20; on a $2,000 paycheck, $25. So you can unlock an instant cash stream by increasing your allowances in line with the deductions you expect to have available when you file your annual income taxes. Simply follow the instructions on the IRS form or consult with a tax professional for more information. Calculate these at
  • Collectibles. For almost instant cash, you can sell collectibles you’ve acquired yourself or through an inheritance. This could be anything from your childhood comic book collection to your great aunt’s silver tea service, so check your attic! You’d be surprised what people will pay money for, so don’t overlook things you might just consider “junk.” Auction sites like eBay, as well as sites specializing in the type of collectible you have, make it easy and inexpensive for you to get a good price for your belongings.
  • Disability help. If you’re disabled, you may be eligible for a program that provides you with counseling, classes and capital with which to start a business. Check with your state’s Vocational Rehabilitation Agency to determine what it offers. You can find your state’s agency by checking the Social Security Administration’s website.

Second, you may be able to tap into:

  • SBA loans. Probably the loan program most suitable for home based businesses is the SBA’s Microloan Program, which is administered through local non-profit community lenders. The average microloan size is about $10,500, but loans can be for as much as $35,000. When this program was started, loans were character-based, that is, they didn’t require collateral. Most programs now require some type of collateral, as well as the personal guarantee of the borrower. You can find the agency administering these loans nearest you on the SBA’s website.
  • Angel investors. While most angel investors, such as those you’d find through sites like and are interested in companies that already have a track record, if you have a hot, innovative idea, you may be able to interest a well-to-do person in your community, like a doctor or a group of doctors, to invest in your venture.

Finally, you may be able to line up prepaid work so that your customers can help finance your startup. For example, you can:

  • Get deposits on contracts you line up. This might be in the form of a purchase order on which you may be able to get a bank to advance your funds. Or, if you’re a service provider, such as a professional speaker, it’s common to require and get half your fee in advance from clients. This can also be done if you have a product your customer will be reselling, giving the customer confidence that they’ll get back the money they pay to you upfront with something they believe their customers will gladly pay for.
  • Barter for the products or services you need. For example, if you provide lawn-care services, you may be able to get printing, web design or equipment you need by your trading your own business’ services.

When it comes to funding your home based startup, thinking creatively could help you achieve your financial goals.

Authors and career coaches Paul and Sarah Edwards are’s “Homebased Business” columnists. Their latest book is The Best Home Businesses for People 50+. Contact them at


Just what kind of business are you in that you want to model your professional actions after the greatest cinematic mob story of all time? Well, no matter. The Godfather is chock full of great advice, and there’s lots to learn from the themes of this classic film. Check out the nine best business lessons that we’ve learned from The Godfather, or you might be (metaphorically) sleeping with the fishes sooner than you thought.

  1. Make Them An Offer They Can’t Refuse

    Obviously. One of the best ways to get what you want in business is to tailor your product to your customer’s needs. And this works for managers, too. If you want to incentivize your employees, there’s often a way that you can make your request primarily beneficial to them and the company both. Barring using horse-headed death threats as a strategy, make sure that when you want a certain result, you make the incentive good enough to warrant it.

  2. Trust No One

    Whether you’re a bona fide wise guy or not, it’s wise to watch who you trust. That’s not to say that you should be suspicious of everyone all the time, it’s that the only person whose decisions and actions that you can safely rely on are your own. Even being in business with people for years doesn’t mean that you can trust them, but you can trust them to be themselves. And whether you’re running the underground or just the office, that’s another key lesson to learn.

  3. Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer

    Well, maybe not your enemies. More like your competitors. It’s important to have a good idea the landscape of your market competition, both larger and smaller than you. And when there’s an industry-wide issue that could improve your field, do yourself a favor and be the one to lead the charge to unity. You’ll stand out among your competitors while also improving things for all involved when you’re the one to get a group to band together faster than you can say “five families.”

  4. Patience is a Virtue

    Don’t expect for things to blow up for you overnight — it takes time to build a mafia empire strong business. And this advice goes for both rookies and veterans: quality comes from patience, planning, and having a great product.

  5. Always Have A Plan

    When you’re running an international crime syndicate, you’ve simply got to have a plan. It’s not profitable to do things willy-nilly, with no discussion or lack of a business model. It’s probably best to avoid a business plan that involves gunning people down in the street, but appropriate foresight, planning, and action can lead to, ahem, legitimate business success.

  6. Learn from Your Failures

    Failure happens. Even to mafiosos. Let this fact lead you, and give yourself permission to fail. But also let yourself learn from your missteps, as it’s possible to turn any short-term failure into long-time success. If you lose some guys in a gun battle, or lose money from a dirty double cross, you know how crucial it can be to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, regroup, and move forward. Also, what kind of job did you say you had, again?

  7. Loyalty Matters

    One of the most important lessons to take from the Don is that loyalty is key. In this day and age, economic security is a spectre — but it’s paramount to remember never to bite the hand that feeds you. Whether you have a boss or have to deal with distributors, it’s always best to be loyal to your higher-ups and those who depend on you. It’s as simple as this: the better everyone does, the better everyone does.

  8. Respect Must Be Earned

    While loyalty is important, respect must be earned. Make sure that you’re commanding respect, and not just because of your great work product. If you act with dignity and put integrity first on your value list, you’ll see how easy it can be to build up mutual respect with co-workers, superiors, and those in other areas with whom you have to work. Additionally, take caution to respect respect: it’s easy to build up, takes time to cement, and can be gone forever in a flash.

  9. Business Is Personal

    Tom, don’t let anyone kid you. It’s all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of sh-t every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it’s personal as hell.And there you have it. Michael Corleone said it best, and it’s the honest truth: business is made up of people. People who care, people who create, people who perform, and everything in between. The great thing about a business is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but its parts are people — and those are pretty great, too.

By Janine Popick

Big businesses need to lighten up, get creative and take a few cues from small business owners.

It’s usually assumed that when it comes to marketing, small businesses can always learn from their larger counterparts, right? Chances are, the big guys have survived their fair share of marketing campaigns, whether good, bad or downright ugly. Factor in an ample marketing budget and a well-paid marketing team and they’re probably light years ahead of smaller businesses. But is that really the case? I beg to differ.

Corporations tend to keep a closer eye on their bottom line, which means they’re far less likely to take risks or test out new ideas. Conversely, the folks in charge could also decide to gobble up every last penny in the budget knowing if they don’t use it now, it might not be there next year. But what if those dollars came out of their own checking accounts? They’d certainly think twice before spending it now, wouldn’t they?

Most small business owners experience pangs of guilt after opening up their pocketbooks. I know I did when I first launched my e-mail marketing company, VerticalResponse. It seemed like every dollar spent on advertising was one less dollar going toward buying new supplies or technology, hiring employees or even clearing their paychecks. It’s a pretty tough pill to swallow. Because every dollar is so important, small businesses want to see results for everything they spend, and they want to see them quick.

That’s why small businesses must be super creative when it comes to acquiring customers. Here are some things that  I think small businesses are doing good that larger companies might learn a thing or two from.

Grassroots Marketing

Remember the days of good ol’-fashioned face-to-face networking? Ever see anyone from a huge corporation at a local Chamber of Commerce function? Small business owners frequent these gatherings and network like there’s no tomorrow, because a lot times this is their only opportunity to get out of their store or office to meet like-minded people. The San Francisco Chamber, for example, holds after-hours events where local business owners meet, exchange ideas, establish leads and stay in touch however they can. Bigger companies should follow suit by designating community coordinators who can get to know owners by name and attach real, human and hopefully smilling faces to corporate logos.

Social Networking

Small businesses excel at building genuine connections, engaging existing customers and leveraging their networks to secure new prospects. Take San Francisco-based pet boarding facility Pet Camp. They keep in touch with e-mail marketing and include lots of easy-to-share content. They take photos of their campers and post them to their Facebook page (often with hilarious captions), so proud moms and dads can check in on their four-legged family member while away. Of course, larger companies do encourage social media participation – as long as employees follow their gazillion-page social media rulebook. Now I’m not saying social media should be a free-for-all, but companies of all sizes can benefit from having a personality and some flexibility when it comes to social media.


In order to set themselves apart from competitors, “mom-and-pop” operations realize a few extra touches make all the difference in the world. I once bought a pair of shoes from a seller on eBay. The package not only arrived in pristine condition, but came with a free shoehorn, leather protection and hand cream. Talk about making the most of your packaging real estate. When was the last time you were treated to a freebie by Amazon?

Being Human

Small businesses do a great job at showing what happens behind the scenes, which helps establish a stronger and more genuine connection with customers. Sonoma, Calif.-based winery Longboard Vineyards encourages readers to learn about Oded the owner, his passion for wine-making and his loyal Longboardians while browsing photos of the lush grounds and their trips to Costa Rica and San Diego. What an great way to immerse people in the company culture.

Lightening Up

Many entrepreneurs start their own businesses for the chance to do what they truly enjoy, not to make it to the top of the corporate ladder. Customers sense this the moment they enter their stores or visit their websites. Vermont’s Magic Hat Brew Company injects fun into everything they do, whether it’s telling folks about upcoming events or where to buy beer. My own company once shot a rap video to increase awareness of what we do and years later, it’s still getting views.

I challenge big businesses to lighten up, get creative and take a few cues from small business owners. Urge your CMOs to pretend they’re spending their own money and you’ll be surprised at what they come up with to battle the competition and the “little guys.” But watch out, we’re sure to put up a fight!


Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse, a leading provider of self-service e-mail and event marketing, online surveys, social media, and direct mail solutions. The company was ranked No. 1,771 on the 2011 Inc. 5000 list. @janinepopick